Big Ten's Aggressive Play Leads to East Coast Expansion

By Kyle Rowland on July 1, 2014 at 8:30a
25 Comments

The 19th century was filled with expansion in the United States. Manifest Destiny, the belief that the country should spread from sea to shining sea, swept through the nation. Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany has taken to Horace Greeley famous advice – “Go West, young man” – except he’s heading in the opposite direction.

The day many Big Ten fans dreaded is finally here: Maryland and Rutgers are officially members of the conference. And with that, the Big Ten’s eastward expansion is on. Even in an era of conference realignment, Maryland and Rutgers in the Big Ten was not predictable.

The conference now stretches 1,308 miles, from Lincoln, Nebraska to Piscataway, New Jersey.

From 1953 to 1991, the Big Ten was exactly that – 10 teams. Penn State joined in 1991, providing the conference with its first footprint in the east. But when Nebraska fled the Big 12 in 2011, the Big Ten was still known as a Midwestern league. Geography said so, as did the postseason.

The Big Ten Tournament rotated between Chicago and Indianapolis, the capital of Midwest hoops, and the football championship game was placed in the Colts’ sparkling Lucas Oil Stadium. Delany confesses, however, that observing the expansion-crazed landscape led him to believe the Big Ten needed to act – and new members needed to come from the east, not west.

“There was more risk to not do anything,” he said.

So in the fall of 2012, Maryland and Rutgers hopped aboard. But the push east didn’t stop there. Delany and the Big Ten have been all in. In May, the conference made two significant steps toward spreading its brand to a region the Big Ten hasn’t called home.

The Gavitt Tipoff Games, a non-conference basketball relationship with the Big East, that will feature eight games between the conferences to begin each college basketball season. The Big Ten announced the following day that the 2017 conference tournament will be held in Washington, D.C. at the Verizon Center, just blocks from the White House. The Chicago Tribune reported Delany is determined to have the basketball tournament in Madison Square Garden for at least one season.

“The competition between conferences for eyeballs and attention is all a positive for college sports fans in the corridor,” Delany said.

Appropriately, Maryland and Rutgers’ dominate school color is red – because the carpet has certainly been laid out with a full ticker tape parade.

“We’re a two-region conference,” Delany said. “We’re not going to visit the East. We're going to live in the East.”

The Pinstripe Bowl and Johns Hopkins lacrosse also connected with the Big Ten. More visibility for the conference comes in the form of a Manhattan office on Third Avenue and office space in Washington. Midwest meet the East Coast, East Coast this is the Midwest.

Delany’s shrewd maneuvering put the conference in two geographic regions. He’s been here, there and everywhere in between during the run-up to July 1. New York City, Washington, College Park, Piscataway, Chicago – and dozens more. All those cities have been on a hefty itinerary. He’s arrived at his destinations via planes, trains and automobiles.

During the conference’s New York and Washington announcements, Delany took Amtrak from Penn Station in New York to Union Station in Washington.   

Money, of course, is the central player in the expansion equation. Even Delany, athletic directors and head coaches acknowledge that fact, especially university brass at Maryland and Rutgers. Both athletic departments have had deficits running into the tens of millions of dollars per year. Maryland took the drastic step of cutting eight sports in 2011.

But there are other areas – not just dollar signs – in play. Recruiting should spike, new fans will discover the Big Ten and brand-name schools, like Ohio State, will venture into markets it rarely sees.

“This is a chance to expand our base, stay connected with our already existing fans and offer games we think everyone will like,” Delany said. “We have to enhance and increase our presence.”

What set the Big Ten’s eastward expansion in motion was the collapse of the Big East. The region was both valuable and unoccupied. The addition of an ACC lifer and Big East also-ran has been mocked by pundits for almost two years, but both universities profiles fit what the Big Ten is seeking – quality academics, an attractive location and big-time athletics.

“The commonalities between these schools and the others in the Big Ten are numerous,” Delany said. “The academic people at Rutgers and Maryland are thrilled about this. They will fit in well among their Big Ten colleagues.”

The Big Ten’s decline in prominence in football has coincided with massive population shifts inside the United States borders. As people left the Midwest for the Sun Belt, the Big Ten’s football rosters became less impressive, contributing to a non-factor status in the national championship hunt, save for a few good years from Ohio State. 

Less than 10 percent of Rivals.com’s top 325 players reside in Big Ten states.

When it comes to television, the Big Ten’s negotiating power just rose considerably. They have a footprint in 14 of the country’s 40 biggest markets – 1. New York, 3. Chicago, 4. Philadelphia, 9. Washington, 11. Detroit, 15. Minneapolis, 17. Cleveland-Akron, 23. Pittsburgh, 25. Indianapolis, 26. Baltimore, 32, Columbus, 34. Cincinnati, 35. Milwaukee, 39. Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek.

The next contract will be written in 2017, and every school in the Big Ten except Michigan State may as well change their colors to green. In New York, BTN agreed to a deal with Time Warner Cable, Cablevision and Comcast to distribute the channel to the nearly 20 million inhabitants of the metro area.

“It is our number one priority this year to integrate Rutgers and Maryland into the Big Ten Network and make high-quality programming for both schools,” BTN president Mark Silverman told the Star-Ledger.

Reasons can be discussed, but Rutgers’ inclusion into the conference would not have occurred if the university was located in Kentucky, West Virginia or another Big Ten border state. The school’s proximity to New York City – the football stadium is 40.4 miles from the Empire State Building – was akin to a golden ticket, with Jim Delany starring as Willy Wonka.

“I think the one thing you realize right away about Jim Delany is he’s got a plan,” Rutgers head football coach Kyle Flood said. “He’s got a very definitive idea of what he wants the conference to be. There’s a reason why he wanted us in the conference, and we’re excited about it.”

Member schools received $23 million in 2012. Estimates for 2017-18, the first year of the new contract, have topped $40 million.

Delany, a University of North Carolina graduate who grew up in South Orange, New Jersey, has long craved a grip on the New York market. Both Rutgers and Maryland ace the location test. But can they upstage the competition on the field? Signs point to no for several sports.

Rutgers has never appeared in a BCS bowl and hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1991. Maryland won the college basketball national championship in 2002. The Terrapins last BCS appearance came during the 2001 season. The two schools were a combined 13-13 on the gridiron last season.

You’d never know both schools lacked football tradition – ticket sales are up 25 percent, thanks to loaded home schedules and the allure of the Big Ten.

“We are eager to celebrate this big moment in our history,” University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh said. “We have chosen our future, spent a year of intense preparation, and have been welcomed by the Big Ten with exceptional camaraderie.”

25 Comments

Comments

BUCKSOMIES's picture

Like it or not, they are here and they are now in the Big.  Welcome.  Now lets play.

+4 HS
IBLEEDSCARLETANDGRAY's picture

Maryland will be a good addition in the long run overall. Maybe not world beaters but they'll produce strong athletic teams. Rutgers has the potential for more but they HAVE to cut down on the drama. That school is a negative press magnet these days. Would LOVE to see Rutgers beat Bert again. In fact, if all the Scarlet Knights ever do is beat Bert they will always be welcome in the B1G.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

+3 HS
rdubs's picture

Maryland is on the upswing in football.  It might be tough to see now that they are in the B1G East because their schedule is going to be so tough.  But the last two years they were decimated by injury.  They had a LB playing QB by the end of the season two years ago, and lost their top two receivers for the second half of the year last year.  If they stay healthy, they may surprise some people.

+2 HS
Chief B1G Dump's picture

The B1G East is the new Big East. 

Delaney can feed us any BS he wants, as he has been, but the move was all financial/tv market posturing. That's fine but don't feed us political speak, we all know.   As a fan, I want the conference dollars to be reinvested to the product and on the field. Bring us some titles and big wins now that traditional allegiances are out the window. We have all these added eyeballs for the BTN, time to entertain. 

+6 HS
NitroBuck's picture

No arguments here, with the exception being that I see the ACC as being the new Big East.  I would like to have seen the B1G pick up stronger athletic programs rather than mediocrity, but hopefully Delany's vision is 20/20 over the long haul.  Hopefully with more money to work with, Maryland and Rutgers will step it up.

Ferio.  Tego.

703Buckeye's picture

It was a good day at Nationals Park yesterday for Maryland. I even got some pics with some special celebrities...

Sparty photobombed us, haha.

Gene Smith was extremely kind, stopping for about 5 minutes to talk with me. 
Jim Delany's entourage was quite annoyed that he took a moment to take pic with me. 

"Attack the Strong, Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead!"
-Former OSU S&C Coach Lichter

+11 HS
Chief B1G Dump's picture

Looks like a good time...BUT YOU GOT SOME SH!T ON YOUR SHIRT!

WOOOOOOOOOO!

+2 HS
mmounts's picture

I live in DC. Yesterday, they pretty much took over Nats pregame area (Fairgrounds).  Have seen several other pop ups of BIG. I'm just happy I have two games to go to this year.

acBuckeye's picture

but both universities profiles fit what the Big Ten is seeking – quality academics, an attractive location and big-time athletics.

Ummmmmm, about that last part.....

11UrbzAndSpices's picture

Technically being a Division 1 school makes you big time athletics...ya know...compared to D3?

Maryland brings a decent basketball team and lacrosse team. I care about those sports, kinda.

Cardale Jones. Cardale Jones! CARDALE JONES!!

+1 HS
One Bad Buckeye's picture

Meanwhile, at DJ Byrnes' residence....

....just messin' man.  :)

"I'm One Bad Buckeye, and I approve this message."

+5 HS
acBuckeye's picture

“I think the one thing you realize right away about Jim Delany is he’s got a plan,” Rutgers head football coach Kyle Flood said. “He’s got a very definitive idea of what he wants the conference to be. There’s a reason why he wanted us in the conference, and we’re excited about it.”

Don't kid yourself Coach Flood. Delany didn't want your school in the conference for the reasons you probably think/hope he wanted your school.

BGSUBucksFan's picture

I understand the money-making incentive here.  But, in terms of strength of schedule, this does not look good.  Neither to the playoff committee nor the recruits.  Come on, man.

Furious George 27's picture

I'll take a Rutgers over a FAMU or any other D-1AA school on the schedule any day.

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

+1 HS
FROMTHE18's picture

In order to be a dominant conference, you have to dominate more than just football and basketball. Maryland and Hopkins will vamp up B1G lacrosse (mens and womens) to a whole new level of elite. Maryland should improve in bball (look at Nebraska) making bball that much better. Also, Maryland soccer is pretty damn good as well, making mens and womens soccer much better. I think Maryland is a hell of a snag and will help the conference much more than people want to give them credit for simply because of football. Rutgers was simply for NYC. I really don't see what they bring to the table athletically, but perhaps they will get their heads out of their asses and be a competitive athletic department and help the B1G, but for now I'm unconvinced they will. Love the Maryland pick up, like the Rutgers one for NYC but for sports, hell no.

+3 HS
Boxley's picture

Once again I will weigh in lightly on this topic. The addition of Rutgers and Maryland was NEVER about the caliber of their sports teams. It was about the additional media market $$$$, and more than that it was about the significant reasearch $$$$ (government grants) those two universities add. Another plus their was their academic qualities. It was NEVER because of their sports teams, that was just the "beard" for the additions. We as sports fans lament the caliber of the additions, but those with the $$$$ and the enhancement of the B1G academic profiles in mind love the additions.

As in most things in the business world today this expansion was about the $$$$ and ($$$$ = Power) nothing else was relevant in the decision.

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

d1145fresh's picture

I know the perception of both of these two programs isn't the best but in reality they haven't been too bad (especially compared to some of the bottom feeders in the B1G already.

Rutgers: Since 2005- 7-5; 11-2; 8-5; 8-5; 9-4; 4-8; 9-4; 9-4; 6-7. Bowl games since 2005 5-3

Maryland: Since 2005- 5-6; 9-4; 6-7; 8-5; 2-10; 9-4; 2-10; 4-8; 7-6. Bowl games since 2005: 3-2.

They aren't great additions but you are going to have a tough time pulling a huge program into a conference. Nebraska was lucky because the Big 12 only cared to keep Texas. Missouri and Texas A&M weren't exactly huge programs when they left to join the SEC. Rutgers and Maryland are good recruiting areas (especially for basketball) and I actually think they are decent additions for the B1G.

Plus I think Delany is actually making a long term plan for the next two teams to join in. These two bring some quality and a lot of money and the next two teams (I still think ND and possibly a team from the southeast) are the bigger targets.

+1 HS
hit_the_couch's picture

Rutgers has actually put a decent amount of prospects in the NFL lately too. I think last year or the year before they had like 8 guys drafted; don't hold me to that though because I didn't fact check and am going off the top of my head.

edit* I guess it's not as good as I thought. They did have seven guys last year, but in contrast none in 2014.

http://www.nfl.com/draft/history/fulldraft?abbr=R&collegeName=Rutgers&ab...

And then I told her...i'm no weatherman, but tonight's forecast is calling for several inches!

hit_the_couch's picture

The 19th century was filled with expansion in the United States. Manifest Destiny, the belief that the country should spread from sea to shining sea, swept through the nation. 

Dammit! I was gonna suggest the B1G keep expanding out west just so I could mention 'manifest destiny' to try to look intelligent (and some other word I can't think of) Guess other people took 9th grade(or some other year?) history too. I'll find an advantage one day to rack up helmet stickers; mark my words!

And then I told her...i'm no weatherman, but tonight's forecast is calling for several inches!

Eph97's picture

I think Oklahoma could have been swayed to leave TX behind. That would have been a homerun addition. I could not care less if they are part of the AAC, CIC or whatever education consortium there is out there. I care about football only. Rutgers and Maryland are, to paraphrase Stringer Bell "Like a forty degree day".

sonofsarek's picture

"The conference now stretches 1,308 miles, from Lincoln, Nebraska to Piscataway, New Jersey."

Not really a big deal. The Pac has fewer teams and stretches 1,539 miles from Tucson to Seattle.  The American stretches 1,694 miles from Dallas to Storrs, CT.  The ACC runs 1,489 miles from Boston to Miami.  Big 12 runs 1,463 miles from Lubbock to Morgantown.  

+1 HS
Jpfbuck's picture

Rutgers record outside the Big East or AAC against other BCS teams since 2005

2005 - 0-2 lost to Illinois and Arizona St

2006 - 3-0 beat 2-10 Illinois, 3-9 UNC, and 7-6 Kansas St

2007 - 0-1 - lost to Maryland

2008 - 1-1 beat 6-7 NCST and lost to UNC

2009 - 1-0 beat 2-10 Maryland

2010 - 0-1 lost to UNC

2011 - 1-1 beat 6-7 Iowa St and lost to UNC

2012 - 1-1 - beat 4-8 Arky and lost the Va Tech

2013 - 1-1 beat 3-9 Arky and lost to 9-4 Notre Dame

overall 8-8, but all 7 of the 8 wins against sub .500 teams with the other one against a 7-6 team

ie they have not beaten a quality OOC opponent in the entire 9 year run of their currently "historical" success. those 8 wins are against teams with a combined 33-66 record, that means their OOC performance has come against teams about as bad as Indiana or Purdue or their fellow Big East members

color me unimpressed

New alum's picture

I like both additions. I think joining the B1G improves Rutgers in terms of both football and basketball. I already think of Maryland as a terrific basketball school, though I realize they have not been as good the past seven, eight years as they were in the late '90s, early '00s. I have been a traditionalist as far as college sports have gone in the past, but times are changing, no benefit in fighting it. I may not have thought of NYC or DC as places to take in a B1G game, but it actually sounds pretty cool.